Sun, November 28, 2021


French truckers, airports, landlords fret over new climate law

French trucking companies, airports and landlords are among those that have most to lose as Parliament starts discussing a law that cracks down on carbon emissions and pollution tied to travel, manufacturing, farming and housing.

From Monday, the French parliament's Lower House starts debating a bill that includes 69 articles with measures such as the end of some domestic flights, new taxes on trucking, and a ban on renting badly insulated homes. It also includes stronger sanctions for pollution of soil, air and water.

The Climate and Resilience bill is based on proposals of an assembly of 150 randomly picked citizens created by President Emmanuel Macron. Coming a year ahead of next year's presidential election, it's a response to the Yellow Vest movement which, almost three years ago, violently rejected Macron's push for higher environmental taxes on gasoline and diesel.

The law will supplement Macron's policies that are supporting electric cars and squeezing fossil fuels from housing and manufacturing as voters are increasingly worried about climate change. While the citizens' assembly and the Green party say the bill isn't going far enough to reduce France's emissions, businesses fear the legislation will add red tape and leave them at a disadvantage to European rivals.

The government said it will help road-freight companies switch to cleaner vehicles as the law foresees a progressive elimination of a tax break on diesel for truckers from 2023. However, electric or hydrogen lorries won't be credible options for years, truckers lobbies say.

"It's not by trying to tax French companies that there will be a shift to other transport means," said Florence Berthelot, general delegate of FNTR, a French truckers federation. "There will still be as many trucks tomorrow, only that they won't be French anymore."

The planned legislation is also angering airport operators as it will ban domestic flights when there's a train alternative of less than 2 1/2 hours, except for a limited number of connections. The bill will also force airlines to compensate emissions for all domestic flights from 2024 by purchasing carbon credits.

The ban, which will reduce flights from Paris to Bordeaux, Lyon and Nantes that carried almost a million passengers a year before the coronavirus pandemic, is "a tough blow to the attractiveness of territories" affected by the measure, Thomas Juin, president of the Union of French Airports, said last month. "Shrinking air transport in a single country is an illusion."

Another controversial measure of the Climate and Resilience bill is a ban on renting badly insulated housing from 2028 that would apply to 4.8 million homes, even as the government is working on measures to help fund renovation works.

"This is a key dent to a fundamental part of property rights," Jean-Marc Torrollion, chairman of the FNAIM federation of real-estate agents, said. Without appropriate government aid, a large proportion of 1.8 million badly-insulated homes currently rented will be removed from the market, further fueling housing tensions, he said.

While the measure may hurt homeowners, it may be a boon for companies involved in renovation and insulation works, which are already currently benefiting from government subsidies.

The Climate and Resilience bill includes other measures, such as:

- Creation of a tax on nitrogen-based fertilizers from 2024 pending failure to reach targets on related emissions

- Gradual obligation to use organic food in public and private canteens

- Ban on advertising for fossil energies, and the creation of a code of conduct to reduce advertising on polluting products

- Increased restraint on advertising screens in shop windows

- Reinforcement of environmental criteria in public procurement

- Mandatory creation of low-emission zones in cities of more than 150,000 inhabitants where most polluting cars will be banned by the end of 2024. About a third of existing vehicles may be concerned by the measure, according to Ecology Minister Barbara Pompili

- Ban on sales of cars emitting more than 95 grams of CO2 per kilometer by 2030, with limited exceptions for some professional vehicles

- Protecting farmland and forests by halving the pace of transformation of theses areas into construction areas during the coming decade

Published : March 30, 2021

By : Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Francois de Beaupuy